(This is a special post because it has a soundtrack – so hit play and read on!) Once There Was A Hushpuppy
As the BIG DAY draws nearer, and the hunt for the perfect present grows more urgent, more frantic, around the nation people are getting ready to gather around a tree/table/fire/TV and immerse themselves in a day of myth, fantasy and fiction.
For the religious, a visit to the church to witness the nativity story, one of the most amazing and most well-known stories. For others, a Dr Who special will serve up a different, but similarly captivating narrative. Leaving behind any debate over ‘the real meaning of Christmas’ it struck me that the 25th December is a day where, more than any other, our lives are so deeply entwined with creation, imagination and story-telling as to be totally reinvented. Whether that is rehashing old family sagas or carefully constructing intricately woven winter themed festivities we sow story alongside our day-to-day so that the holly and fir trees, the twinkling lights reflect the magic of a baby in a manger, an ancient fleet-footed gift giver and reindeer-nibbled mince pies.
New Pyjamas, mulled wine, stolen, ribbon and robins – these are constructs with which we inter-lay our cultural story with our narrative. Christmas is a season of Magical Realism – where fantasy is entwined with reality so that they are integral to each other. But this is not confined to December. Magical Reality is the process by which we weave stories in order to construct an optimistic human truth (stay with me….)
I recently watched a film that got me sobbing heartily within the first five minutes, and left me staggering home on the tube weeping inconsolably. Reliving certain scenes still has me welling up at inopportune moments. It was a story of joy and desperation and if you haven’t seen Behn Zeitlin’s BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, do. It is genuinely one of the most moving, inspiring, heart-breaking stories I have ever had the privilege to witness.
In BEASTS, the lovely Quevenzhane Wallis plays the heart-strong Hushpuppy. A six year old with the whole universe dazzled in her hands. She lives with her father Wink in the Bayou, a community in the Deep South of America that is absolutely poverty- stricken but rich in love and story. There is a storm, and a flood and a catastrophe. There are also the Aurochs, terrifying prehistoric monsters that are slowly making their way towards the little girl as she fights for her Daddy, and for her town as they float on a giant raft through a chaos of water and devastation.
The Aurochs are both real and they are fantasy. They are the imagined creations of a child who is terrified, but fiercely brave. But they are also real monsters, fear, loss, a need for safety and stability. They are threatening but they are majestic – they terrify Hushpuppy, but they are also part of her. They are her fears, and her fearlessness. The Aurochs are the kings, but as Hushpuppy yells ‘I’m the man!’
Just like Hushpuppy, we spend our days weaving stories together to better understand our realities. Terrible things happen, awful gut wrenching tragedies that decimate families, and communities. They happen every day – and if we were to face this brutal truth how we would we justify our existence? But truth is not held solely by the rolling news channels. Perhaps our fictions are better truths than our realities. They are more honest, more articulate constructions of ourselves. Of what we wish for and are capable of. Stories are society’s statement to the universe. Even when terrible, awful, heart breaking things happen we know that human kind has a heart that can absorb bad and dream big, that can know sadness and still hope for better things.
Here’s to 2013 and making our stories reality.